Grabassery At The NRA? Fam, We Are SHOOK!
There's trouble in Gangster's Paradise today, with revelations that the NRA may have a bit of a #MeToo problem. ProPublica reports that the gunhumper lobby fielded two separate sexual harassment claims against senior executive Josh Powell in the past two years. Powell, whose prior professional experience consists largely of mismanaging menswear catalog companies and leaving a trail of unpaid vendors, was accused of inappropriate behavior by both an NRA employee and another woman who works at its longtime media company Ackerman McQueen.
Powell seems to make very little distinction between his professional and personal lives. Indeed, his catalog companies consisted of little more than photographs of himself staring ruggedly into a campfire, fondling firearms while sporting expensive outerwear. He admitted under oath to having had a sexual relationship with a company photographer in 2014, and later tried to get a job for her at the NRA when he became its chief of staff. He hired his own father to photograph shooting competitions for the NRA. And by sheer coincidence Powell's wife Colleen Gallagher was also hired by NRA fundraising consultant McKenna & Associates in 2017, shortly after he was named NRA executive director.
It's always the ones you most suspect.
ProPublica reports that the NRA paid a confidential settlement to one of its own employees in 2017 to settle a sexual harassment claim against Powell, the same year he was promoted from chief of staff to executive director. The following year, Ackerman McQueen, the advertising company that used to receive $40 million per year in NRA cash but is now locked in a litigation death match with the gun lobby, barred Josh Powell from contact with any of its employees. An Ackerman source told ProPublica the company had "clear reason to believe supported by evidence that he sexually harassed one of our employees," and that they "would not tolerate his further involvement with any of our employees in order to protect their right to a safe work environment."
But the best defense is a good offense, so the NRA responded by accusing Ackerman of weaponizing an old harassment claim after Powell tried to cut the NRA's spending with the advertising company.
The [NRA] spokesman called Ackerman's harassment allegations "cryptic," adding that they "first surfaced in October 2018, shortly after Mr. Powell participated in an effort to significantly reduce Ackerman's budget with the NRA. Immediately, remarks allegedly made more than a year before became fodder for a harassment claim — accompanied by a demand that Mr. Powell be excluded from any further budget negotiations with the agency. The NRA committed in good faith to investigate the allegation, but the accuser and Ackerman declined to participate in any interview about the alleged incident."
That, we note, is not a denial that the NRA's guy is a gross, pervy serial harasser.
To be fair, the NRA might have a point when it characterizes this latest revelation as part of Ackerman's "extortion demand," if one remembers what happened on the eve of its 2019 annual meeting, when then-NRA President Oliver North allegedly threatened that damaging financial information -- including sexual harassment settlements -- would leak if the NRA didn't drop its lawsuit against Ackerman and fire Wayne LaPierre. On the other hand, there wouldn't be any stories to leak if the NRA wasn't run like a personal ATM machine for its upper management. You pays your money, and you takes your chances.
And speaking of money, where IS that harassment settlement? ProPublica couldn't find it in the public filings, but the money had to come from somewhere. So let's make an educated guess that they didn't route that cash through Ackerman the way they did Wayne LaPierre's travel and clothing expenses and the planned purchase of his $6 million faux chateau outside Dallas -- first because Ackerman and Josh Powell were on the outs, and second because, if Ackerman knew how much the NRA paid, the Wall Street Journal would probably find out about it too.
A more likely possibility is that it made its way into invoices from the NRA's legal team headed up by LaPierre's close ally William Brewer III. The Daily Beast reported that Brewer's firm took in upwards of $25 million from the NRA in the past year, billing $97,787 every single day of the first quarter of 2019. It seems at least possible that some of that cash went toward cleaning up after Josh Powell's allegedly inappropriate office behavior.
Luckily, there was enough money left over to pay Powell $800,000 per year in salary and "living expenses" for his valuable gunhumping services. In fact, he was "promoted" in December to become "senior strategist" to the legal team suing the state of New York for warning banks that they might suffer "reputational" harm if they did business with the gun lobby. Powell isn't a lawyer, but he does have experience steering the NRA into serious legal jeopardy with its Carry Guard insurance program, which was "Josh's baby." Which is pretty much the same thing, right?
Despite repeated fuckups, Josh Powell seems to have the loyalty of the most important man in Gunlandia, Wayne LaPierre. Many board members have called for his firing, including NRA board member Robert Brown, who sent this hilarious email through the organization's general counsel, John Frazer, after getting repeatedly blown off by LaPierre:
John, since Wayne refuses to respond to my emails, plez pass on to him the message below.
Wayne, at the last NRA BoD meeting, you promised me you were going to terminate that worthless scoundrel, Josh Powell, in 60 days. Well, 60 days have passed. When are you going to fire him?
Oh, yeah. Wayne's gonna get right on that, 'cause he doesn't tolerate any funny business in his shop. You bet!
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Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.